Tigers Fall In St. Petersburg Bowl - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Carrie Anderson

Tigers Fall In St. Petersburg Bowl

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - For anyone who thought it might be

difficult for Matt Grothe and South Florida to get excited about

playing what amounted to an extra home game, the Bulls and their

dual-threat quarterback answered with a dominating performance in

the first St. Petersburg Bowl.

Grothe moved ahead of West Virginia's Pat White as the Big

East's career total offense leader, throwing for 236 yards and

three touchdowns to on the way to a 41-14 victory over Memphis on

Saturday.

Grothe and White, a senior who will finish his season in the

Meineke Bowl on Dec. 27, are the only players in league history to

amass more than 10,000 yards total offense. White has 10,142 in 49

games, and Grothe, who also rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries

Saturday, finished the night with 10,214 in 39 games.

USF (8-5) scored on four of its first five possessions to build

a 24-14 halftime lead, forcing Memphis (6-7) to play catch-up and

essentially taking 1,000-yard rusher Curtis Steele out of the

Tigers' game plan.

Memphis' Arkelon Hall threw for one TD and ran for another. But

Steele was held to 48 yards rushing on 12 attempts by a stout run

defense determined to redeem itself this postseason after giving up

253 yards to Oregon's Jonathan Stewart during a lopsided loss in

last year's Sun Bowl.

Grothe threw TD passes of 26 yards to Taurus Johnson, 13 to Ben

Busbee and 24 to Dontavia Bogan before being replaced by Grant

Gregory with USF leading 34-14 late in the third quarter.

Hall was 15-of-30 for 154 yards and no interceptions for

Memphis, with much of that coming on a swing pass that Steele

turned into a 50-yard gain early in the second half. He ran 3 yards

for a first-quarter touchdown, then threw 2 yards to Duke Calhoun

for the Tigers' other TD just before halftime.

It was the first meeting between the former Conference USA

rivals since USF left that league for the Big East in 2005. The

teams split four games between 2001 and 2004, and Memphis relished

the challenge of facing an opponent from a BCS conference for the

first time in five bowl appearances under coach Tommy West.

The Tigers, who won six of nine games to become bowl eligible

after an 0-3 start, viewed Saturday as an opportunity to gauge how

much they've progressed toward a goal of having a BCS-caliber

program.

On this day, they were nowhere close to a South Florida team

that began the season with high expectations after being ranked as

high as No. 2 in 2007. The Bulls won their first five before

stumbling badly in the Big East and winding up in a bowl game just

32 miles from USF's main campus in Tampa.

Downtown St. Petersburg is close enough that coach Jim Leavitt

and his players bused from the team hotel back to campus for

practice all week, truly making it seem like an extra home game

rather than a bowl trip.

The announced crowd at Tropicana Field, the domed home of

baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, was 25,202.

Powered by Frankly